The benefits of not sleeping: a(n almost) finished sweater

I’ve got several other posts started, but they’re not getting finished. I’ve been dealing with a whole lot of intense deadlines (the flood not due to abate soon). In addition, in the past ten days, two good friends have been
hospitalized. They are both spinners whom I have known for more than twenty years. One is now out again, beginning rehab and
slower-than-she-wishes recovery. The other is still in a medically
induced coma. Prayers and other good thoughts of healing directed toward Colorado would be welcome.

I have the screensaver on my primary computer set to scroll the phrase "One thing at a time." Every time I come back to the computer from doing something else, the screen is light blue with a whilte "One thing at a time" slowly moving across it.

This helps. I’m not getting everything done by any means (I owe people phone calls from almost two weeks ago), but I am making progress on the major tasks.

Tomorrow morning, my daughter and I leave on a road trip, the centerpiece of which is just over five days staying with family in some cabins by the ocean. I’ve checked the weather report. It’s cool there: highs in the low 60s F today (17 or so degrees C). The weather here has been such that 87 degrees F (30 degrees C) looks cool.

Therefore it’s not entirely irrational that I could not sleep at 2 this morning. Nor is it entirely irrational that, when it became obvious that sleep would be elusive, I finished binding off my version of the Must Have Cardigan. I could actually want to wear it next week. It is Stephanie’s fault that I made this sweater; hers was finished in February.


I was still awake after I completed the binding-off, so I wove in all the yarn ends. And then, because I was still awake, I soaked it in some Unicorn Fibre Wash that I am trying out, and because the yarn (Cascade 220) is ever-so-slightly coarser than I wish (probably only a micron or two) and the sweater is an unusually trim fit for me so the proximity to my body will be more remarkable than usual (I usually knit "can put six layers underneath"), I added the Unicorn Fibre Rinse that I am also beginning to experiment with. Of course, since the sweater was now wet, I needed to go downstairs and spin it out in the washing machine, and then bring it back upstairs and pat it to shape to dry.

I did get back to sleep a little after 3:30. When I got up for real at about 6:45, it was time to flip the sweater over to give the back an equal opportunity at speedy drying.

The sweater doesn’t have buttons, and, of course, it’s still damp, so I don’t know what it looks like. I did try it on before I washed it, and I liked the fit at that point.

Notes on modifications

I learned some things from Stephanie’s experiences with her sweater. I bound off the back neck and then picked up stitches for the neckband (she used the crochet fix). She shortened her sleeves; I lengthened both sleeves and body. She modified the cable crossings to mirror, whereas I, knowing that the cables likely wouldn’t intersect neatly with the V neckline at my body length, planned in an entirely different complement of cables (I did stick with the moss stitch at the sides of the body and the underarms).

I made a few other changes. Mine’s a lovely blue. I forgot until just now that I knitted the fronts and backs all in one piece (back and forth, rather than steeked). I was sure I’d taken a photo of the body just after it was finished, but I can’t find it right now.

I didn’t post a photo of the completed sleeves, although I did take one when I finished them on May 21:


I knitted the sleeves first to double-check gauge before launching into the body (I did knit gauge swatches first).

Here’s the photo I took on July 16, when I finished the body . . . I didn’t have time to get it up then, either:


I blocked the sleeves and body more firmly than I usually block cables because I wanted the sweater to seam together very neatly.

My biggest change to the structure of the sweater involved the bands around the front opening. Normally I avoid picked-up-and-knitted-on ribbings, classic as they are, because I hate the way they tend to pull in, especially at the lower edges. I read in a couple of comprehensive knitting books about some fixes for that pull-in, but when it came time to start the ribbing I didn’t even have the instructions for the sweater with me, much less my reference books.

The ribbing worked out really well, and that’s a miracle, as my process, a combination of deliberate action and totally random behavior, will attest.

Ribbing around the bottom edges of garment pieces needs to pull in slightly, to keep those edges from flaring out: they should snug the body. Bottom-edge ribbing is normally knitted on slightly smaller needles and with a slightly smaller stitch count than is used for the body.

Ribbing around the front edges should not flare out, either, but also
should not contract or it will pull the garment out of shape. The goal on front-opening ribbing is to have it lie flat.

Using the larger (body) needles, I knitted a swatch of 2/2 ribbing and measured the gauge with the ribbing relaxed (flat). I held my swatch up to the sweater and figured out how many stitches to pick up for how many rows in order to get that gauge. I picked up stitches all the way around, putting a stitch marker after every 10 stitches. I made sure I had the same number of stitches on each side (1) between the bottom edge and the point where the decreases began for the neckline and (2) from that start-the-decreases point to the shoulder seam.

Then I decided to knit the ribbing on the smaller needles that I’d used for the lower edges, not the needles I’d swatched on. I have no idea why, except that I thought, "It’ll work better. Do it."

Before committing to the full length, I did knit back and forth on about 20 stitches at one bottom edge in the ribbing for a test. It looked okay, so I took that out and worked the whole length of ribbing. I made the ribbing a couple of rows wider than the instructions (which I’d reviewed by then) called for. When I did take a look at the instructions, well into whatever I was doing, I discovered I was working on somewhere between 70 and 100 more stitches than they called for. I don’t remember the exact count because I just noticed, "Oops, way more stitches, hmmm, seems to be working anyway," and forged on.

Obviously I expected to have a few more stitches because my body is 2 inches (5 cm) longer, making the span that the ribbing needed to cover 4 inches (10 cm) longer (2 inches on each front). Nonetheless, I was way out of the ballpark . . . with swatch data and apparently successful ribbing-in-the-making to encourage me to persevere.

I think it worked. My neckline appears to be higher than other folks’ necklines seem to be, although my body pieces blocked out exactly to the intended dimensions. That’s okay. I like the neckline. I also very much like the shape of the slightly wider ribbing around the neck; it seems to work especially well when I put the sweater on. The ribbing doesn’t flare, and it doesn’t pull in . . . or not very much at all. I did add a wee bit of crochet at the bottom of the ribbing on each front, to stabilize the bottom column of stitches and minimize any remaining tendency to get out of line. I think my preferences for NO DRAW IN in this department come from years of sewing, paying attention to getting sharp turns on facings.

Here’s the April 14 intro to my version of the sweater. Here’s the April 28 summary of my design thoughts. The rest of this sweater’s coming-into-being seems to have pretty much taken place in my sleep, when I didn’t get any blogging about it done.

Whatever works.

Now I do need some buttons, though. It’s probably just as well for my rest quota that the shops were all closed in the wee hours of the night. I’m taking the button-less sweater with me on our road trip tomorrow and will see what buttons I find along the way. When I get buttons, my daughter has offered to take a photo of me in the sweater. Then it will really be done.

And now I’ve finished my work for today, despite six (count ’em) system crashes. I still need to finish packing.

I’m really glad I finished that sweater. It was the most satisfactorily productive thing I did today.


7 thoughts on “The benefits of not sleeping: a(n almost) finished sweater”

  1. my mother is finishing this sweater on her summer vacation, and she’s doing it Elizabeth Zimmermann style in one piece (sleeves too, steeking the front).. I think she’s using the cables as written, it’s a cool sweater at any rate 🙂

    It’s a good sweater and seeing all of them gets me into a cable mood which I don’t think I’ve ever really been in.

    Sigh. Add this to the queue

  2. “I discovered I was working on somewhere between 70 and 100 more stitches than they called for. I don’t remember the exact count because I just noticed, “Oops, way more stitches, hmmm, seems to be working anyway,” and forged on.”

    This may be due to your row gauge differing from that of the pattern writer/designer. If the designer had fewer rows to the inch than you did, you would need to pick up more stitches than the pattern called for. Combine that with your added length, and there you are.

    The sweater is lovely – well done!

  3. Thanks, Joy! Yep, Tycho, it’s a fantastic sweater, and frankly I’d consider knitting it again. That’s HUGE. I am easily bored and don’t like to re-knit things. I’d even re-knit with my modifications exactly the same. And I think it would be equally satisfying with the original patterns (which I like, they just don’t work for me). Go for it!

  4. Hi, Kate:

    Yeah, it’s tempting to think that row gauge would make a difference in my total stitch count, but the difference in total number of stitches is actually a function of my *stitch* gauge *on the ribbing* being different than the designer’s (plus my 4 inches of extra opening edge).

    Our overall stitch gauges on the body were the same, even though I modified all the cables. I can’t compare our stitch gauges on the ribbing, because patterns almost never include that. They just give a number of stitches to pick up and a needle size to work with, assuming that all will fall into place if you’ve gotten the gauges right on the rest of the garment. And all does ordinarily fall into place.

    So here’s how the row and stitch gauges do affect the picking-up for front bands:

    Row gauge on a neckband of this type only comes into play in its width, once you’re knitting it . . . it’s not a factor in how many stitches are picked up where the band attaches to the body.

    Row gauge *is* a factor in the *rhythm* by which the stitches get picked up.

    Let’s say my row gauge is 8 rows to the inch and the designer’s is 6, and we both have a stitch gauge of 5. She will need to pick up 5 stitches every 6 rows and I’ll need to pick up 5 stitches in every 8 rows. As long as we both have 5 stitches to the inch, we’ll still be aiming at the same total number (adjusted for my extra length). Once we’re knitting, if we want a band that is 1 inch wide, she will knit 6 rows and I will knit 8.

    That’s a little fuzzy in the way of description, because the gauge we’re concerned with is *ribbing* gauge, not body gauge, and we (all) usually only measure and pay attention to body gauge. Plus ribbing stretches a lot more than other types of patterning.

    I did happen to be in an infinitesimal minority of knitters when I knitted a ribbing swatch and measured it. That’s certainly not part of my usual routine, but the pattern was AWOL when I got to the ribbing, it’s a long way around the cardigan opening edges, and I figured it was faster to swatch than to reknit that boring bit. However, I then partially ignored the information I got from my ribbing swatch by knitting the real thing on smaller needles! (Yes, I hedged my bets by doing my 20-stitch sample and ripping *that*.)

    Anyway, it worked. That’s what I love about knitting. You can think about it all you want (and I think about it a lot), but in the end the proof is in whether what you just did gives you results that you like.

    That always seems a little magical to me. It’s part of the flexibility and sculptural quality of the medium: math helps enormously, but math doesn’t rule. In the end, gut instinct can end up being equally valuable.

  5. Okay, Kate, about mile 233 on I-84 in Idaho I figured out how row gauge *might* have mattered. If the instructions had said, “Pick up 4 stitches for every 5 rows,” yep, I would have come up with too many stitches if my row gauge had been greater.

    But the baseline (the pattern) was of the sort that says “pick up 71 stitches between bottom of sweater and beginning of neck shaping,” and so on, ending with a grand total specific number. So the pattern’s numbers and mine “should” have been the same (adjusted for my length).

  6. Oh No!! You’re **still** having system crashes? Beautiful sweater. I am in awe of all that you do and get accomplished. Lovely lovely photos. I’m enjoying the travelogue!

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